Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Kathmandu after the 2015 Earthquake

Kathmandu. A lot of the historical sites in Kathmandu now lay in ruins. I spend most of my days in Kathmandu just walking around the huge and congested city of Kathmandu. Pollution was unavoidable in the city and walking no more than 10 minutes and one will be covered in dust and ashes.

Most of the tourist never leave the heart of Thamel where one could find restaurants, tour agency, laundry, Hotels,
Thamel - Kathmandu
guesthouse and unlimited arts and craft for souvenir hunters to take home. I almost got suckered in to it as well and in a way I did not manage to make it past the second zone of Kathmandu which was walking distance in any direction within 2 hours.

If it were not for the search for the post office for my hunt of stamps collection I would have never seen some of the historical sites as well. They say you will see ruins now only. In a way it is true for I saw some historical sites that was in-
Intricate wooden structures all over Kathmandu- Nepal
complete, or in utter ruins and others was unsafe to enter but was being propped up and supported by poles till the money and time required to restore it to its former glory could kick in.

It will take years for the UNESCO heritage site to be rebuilt especially with the strictness of the UNESCO rules but for all other parts of Kathmandu they are recovering as fast as they can from the disaster.

It was not surprising that the Heritage places suffered the most damage. They were after all one of the oldest in town. Buildings are built top heavy here in Kathmandu like a reverse pyramid. This makes it more prone to collapse and damage during a big shake. Dunbar City was one of those sites that although cracked and tilted still holds a charm. Its one of those place that even if you don’t know about it, wondering into the ancient city will make one eyes and mind blown away even in a semi ruin state.
Dunbar City - Kathmandu Nepal

Ruin Tower of Dharahara
One plus side of visiting Nepal now I guess is that I walked in most of the historical site for free. Signboard stating 100 Rp for locals and 800 Rp for other country visitors are not enforce now and one could just stroll in and watch the ruins. I went to only three sites … the ruin tower Dharahara, Dunbar Square and monkey temple.
Dunbar Square I have already gave a glimpse of the beauty of ruin buildings being propped up despite its falling nature and Dharahara was a wrech. The totem pole tower is completely and utterly missing. Best to just demolish the rest to the ground or just leave it as it is.

Monkey temple was a long walk out of town. Nearly an hour since I got lost a bit. Kathmandu was a place you will get lost if you do not have a working GPS. Map won’t really cut it

since there are barely any street signs and even if there is it would be in Napalese language. Streets are conjoined by hidden passageway or passageway through someone’s house that forms a pedestrian street that motorbikes uses as well.

Monkey Temple - Kathmandu
There are no rules in Kathmandu as far as I can tell. Power, telecom, lights, roads, sewage, drainage, water, food … everything is a mash of chaos intricately bound together and harmonized.
View of Kathmandu From Monkey Temple

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Bus From Kathmandu to Pokhara - Nepal

The bus ride from Kathmandu to Pokhara was a choice between two evil. I had a choice between the local bus or the tourist bus. How I detest myself for choosing the tourist bus for I felt a true traveller must do it the local way.
Tourist Bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara
The price different was not much really between 400 Rp and 600 Rp. Being lazy and of course having Asanam as a companion made me took the tourist bus option of 600 Rp. Tourist bus was just a name and the bus was just slightly more better than the local one.
The major difference was that this bus did not stop every stretch of the way picking up people along the route, however it did try to pick up as much as possible before leaving Kathmandu. Once outside Kathmandu the bus only stopped for toilet breaks and food breaks.

I was sleep deprived. I had maybe half an hour of sleep that night before the bus ride and luckily enough we were position towards the rear end of the bus. I sat at the middle seat of the last row hoping the bus will not be full and when we finally hit the road the thankfully the last row was not occupied. I could now use it like a bed and tried to sleep the journey away.

Halfway though we had a stop for toilet and for breakfast. Asanam told me that the view was beautiful but she herself could barely keep her eyes open. I was just glad I could lie down fully for I was exhausted and the bus was going though a super windy road plus I was pretty sure he was driving crazily. A few blarring horns more louder than the rest and more urgent sounding too told me we avoided collision of some sort. At one point the emergency brakes was jammed and almost everyone flew out of their seats. I was lucky enough that one right hand was always braced for it to happen.
It took us nearly 8 hours to get to Pokhara from Kathmandu although it was only a 300 km journey. Windy roads up and down the mountains pass made it a slow journey although sitting in the bus feels like the driver was speeding 80 miles an hour all the way.

Lunch Break along the way

Off the bus and the touts were waiting for us. You could see them outside the window looking in and scouring for the idiot tourist. As much as we were trying to avoid them they were judging their prey. I got off and immediately one guy approached with a comment … China ???
No ! Malaysia ….. I couldn’t help but correct him.
Immediately he switch to Malay and greeted me like a brother in the most profound malay proficiency that one would thought he was Malaysian true and true. I politely told him that we already have a reservation and have paid. He prompt me for the name of the hostel which I had prepared in advance knowing the local tout trick (he was checking if I was lying and indeed I was lying about the reservation but I did know where we were headed too). Knowing that he had no chance to sway me to another hotel he bid me farewell while me and Asanam got our luggage and prepared for a walk. ( all the above were conversed in Malay between me and the tout )
Asanam was a greeny when it comes to backpacking. Immediately she headed straight for the first taxi driver near the gate of the bus station. I lied to her …. I seem to be doing that a lot in Nepal it seams and told her it was only a short walk away. Once clear of the touts she asked me how far it was and I lied again … 400 meters I told her. 10 minutes later I told her it was just about there … another 400 meters checking my phone map. I had no idea how far it was other than it was walkable.
She needed that motivation I suspected for I had a feeling she would not have walked if she knew how far it really was … about 3km. Too late to turn back and not knowing where we were going she was force to follow me. Once we arrive it was a story we told over and over again to new and old fellow traveller that we meet in the hostel.
Kiwi Backpackers Guesthouse was the hostel we stayed in Pokhara. Not the cheapest place but the cheapest proper hostel 500Rp a dorm bed. Other Guesthouse was offering about 250 a head in their two bed room but I was not too keen. At hostels, at least one could meet other travellers and I would be relived in providing Asanam all the conversation attention.